The Last Leaf

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. image from the HubPages website

Background: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., wrote a poem entitled, “The Last Leaf,”  about the American patriot, Major Thomas Melvill(e). In turn, this poem, a parody of Holmes’ version, is about Holmes, himself:

The Last Leaf

We see the patriarch still
Briskly treading Beacon Hill
Full of joy.
For his heart is pure and glad
As the good Sir Galahad,
Or a boy.

By the tea cups when he sat —
The unrivaled Autocrat —
Did he know
He would some day cling, ah me! —
Last leaf on the lonely tree
Bent with snow!

Had he felt and had he known
He would wear the bays alone.
Still I hold
Never would have blanched that cheek.
Still his harp had blessed the weak,
Charmed the old.

His the gospel of good cheer,
Doctor’s art and poet’s ear
Joined to bless,
Heart with human kind atouch,
Like the Master healing such
In the press.

Writing no impassioned screeds
To uphold a party’s creeds
Or its wrongs.
Broader than his Brahmin caste,
He has won the world at last
With his songs.

Still he walks the Boston streets,
And he smiles at those he meets
As he roams;
Ah! we love that gray haired man,
Grasp his hand, dear, if you can;
That’s our Holmes!

— FRED L. KNOWLES.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Mar 20, 1890

Image and poem from The Melville Family website, where you can read an interesting history of this poem:

“The Last Leaf”

By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1831)
A poem on Major Thomas Melvill(e), grandfather of Herman Melville, last of the Boston Tea Party Indians

I saw him once before,
As he passed by the door,
And again
The pavement stones resound,
As he totters o’er the ground
With his cane.

They say that in his prime,
Ere the pruning-knife of Time
Cut him down,
Not a better man was found
By the Crier on his round
Through the town.

But now he walks the streets,
And he looks at all he meets
Sad and wan,
And he shakes his feeble head,
That it seems as if he said,
“They are gone!”

The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has prest
In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb.

My grandmamma has said–
Poor old lady, she is dead
Long ago–
That he had a Roman nose,
And his cheek was like a rose
In the snow;

But now his nose is thin,
And it rests upon his chin
Like a staff,
And a crook is in his back,
And a melancholy crack
In his laugh.

I know it is a sin
For me to sit and grin
At him here;
But the old three-cornered hat,
And the breeches, and all that,
Are so queer!

And if I should live to be
The last leaf upon the tree
In the spring,
Let them smile, as I do now,
At the old forsaken bough
Where I cling.

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